Total Church 21: Apologetics – Luther’s theology of the cross

This is part 21 of our series Total Church by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester. Blame and credit for these posts must be shared by the Wednesday morning Total Church reading group:

Part 1 of the chapter on Apologetics here.

Luther’s Theology of the Cross:

Together with the blindness of man is the hiddenness of God. Luther says that God hides himself from those who would know him without loving him. When we look at created things in order to know God, it is true they reveal something of God but this knowledge does not lead to a love or hunger after Him but only to pride and folly.

God is not unknowable but rather He is known through what is contrary.

“He is known in a hidden way.  God’s invisible attributes are revealed in suffering and the cross: glory in shame; wisdom in folly; power in weakness; victory in defeat. God is known through the message of the cross… If knowledge of God could be obtained from what is visible… it would lead to pride.  So God determined to be known through suffering so that he would be hidden from all those who exalt themselves.” (p165)

“It requires faith to recognize God in the absence of God, to recognize victory in defeat, to recognize glory in shame.  God is known only by faith.  And because it requires faith, it is an act of grace.  We do not contribute to our salvation – it is all God’s doing.” (p166)

How then do we know God?  How do we come to believe?  Through rational defenses of the gospel (apologetics)?  Or for that matter miracles, experiences or contemplation of creation?

“We do not know God because we are cleverer than other people or have greater spiritual insight or have spent more time in contemplation.  We know God because God graciously reveals himself to us in the message of the cross.  We know the hidden God through the grace of God.” (p166)

Which brings us back to Pascal’s wager, the role of apologetics is not to convert unbelievers through rational argument.

“The role of rational apologetics is to demonstrate unbelief is a problem of the heart rather than a problem of the head.” (p167)

Questions about suffering, miracles or religious pluralism may be the issues that present themselves as obstacles to belief, but the role of apologetics is “to strip away the excuses and expose rebellious hearts.” (p167)


~ by John on December 24, 2008.

2 Responses to “Total Church 21: Apologetics – Luther’s theology of the cross”

  1. […] my thoughts and review here, here and […]

  2. […] talk about “Relational Apologetics” in their book Total Church (my thoughts here, here and here) (also Tim’’s post on the Resurgence […]

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